postscript and a cautionary tale for thanksgiving feasters

My mother - being a fond  mother and therefore one of my most devoted readers - explained to me one of the mysteries of my childhood after reading the post on a different pumpkin pie. It is a sad, sad tale but the moral is improving so I am moved to share.

My father loved good food and a good dessert just naturally follows a good meal, especially a good holiday feast. His mother, my grandmother Ina Burr Merrill, was a famously good cook and a very warm, loving mother. I remember the smells and delights of her kitchen, the cookies and pancakes, the huge family gatherings with cousins and aunts and uncles galore. Of course she made pies to die for -the apple pie with her own unique spin (the spin that she taught my mother and my mother passed down to me), rhubarb, and other pies as well. But the pie my father loved best and could never, ever have enough of was her supremely good pumpkin pie. One day she promised him as much pumpkin pie as he wanted ...  Nobody (aside from my grandma and my dad) knows just how much pie that was but apparently my dad was more greedy than wise. He ate and ate and ate that delicious richness of pumpkin pie until his stomach rebelled and he was sick. He never ate pumpkin pie again. So you see, it is a sad, sad tale. Let it be a lesson to all. (Just what that lesson may be I leave up to you to discover. On reflection, I have discovered at least a few.)

Although this recipe is not the pumpkin pie of the sad, sad tale it is one that my grandmother had in her files and it is written in her hand. When my mother gave it to me she also gave me a most wonderful gift - she said that I was a lot like my Grandma Merrill. She too had her basic and favourite recipes but loved trying new ideas and had recipes written on scraps of paper and bits of paper napkins. To be told that I am like my very much loved and wonderful grandmother in any way at all just absolutely made my day!

I considered making this pie for our Thanksgiving feast  but decided that to go against tradition might incite mutiny but I will for sure be giving it a try before long. Maybe with a few changes though.... just can't do Dream Whip :)


old reliable pancakes

I realize (I do!) that calling these reliably favourite pancakes 'old reliable pancakes' is very likely selling them way short but I have been sitting here for more than a few minutes wondering what to call them. There is no name on the bedraggled piece of paper that I have chased around my kitchen for years - the paper with the recipe written in a hurried scrawl, portions crossed out and re-written as I discovered a new and better way to make these pancakes that we come back to time and time again. This is not to say that we don't love the new favourites but this version is the comfort food version in our house. I have been making them in one form or another for all the years of my kids lives (and we won't go into how many that would be). 'Old reliables' is what I call them in my mind and so that is what they are christened here. No pretence, nothing fancy - just old fashioned, reliably good pancakes with a new healthy twist.

There are several flours in this recipe and each adds something unique, so if you have them or want to add them to your pantry, go for the gusto. On the other hand if you don't have and don't want them all, just use what you do have and make sure the total volume adds up. (Usually volume alone is not the best way to exchange flours but I have found this recipe is incredibly forgiving in this regard.) The only non-negotiable flour-wise is the cornmeal. It is an absolute must and probably the reason these are so beloved - the crunch is perfection. The other absolute is the cardamom - don't ignore it either. And if I can, I would encourage the use of whole grain flours because anything else in pancakes is a ridiculous excuse for the first meal of the day and shouldn't be eaten by man or beast.

We like to load these babies up with Greek yogurt, fruit and a drizzle of lovely pure maple syrup. It makes a lovely start to any day. Or if you want to end your day with them, an egg on the stack is pretty great too.

old reliable pancakes

1/2 cup spelt flour
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 cup almond meal
1/2 cup buckwheat flour
1/4 cup cornmeal
1/4 cup ground chia seed
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp cardamom
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp sea salt
3 eggs
2 1/2 cups buttermilk (or soured milk of your choice)
1/4 cup grape seed oil
2 Tbsp pure maple syrup

Combine the dry ingredients in a medium bowl and whisk together.

In a separate bowl add the eggs, buttermilk, grape seed oil, and maple syrup. Whisk together then pour into the dry ingredients and fold just until the dry ingredients are incorporated. Bake on a hot griddle, flipping when bubbles appear on the surface.


a different pumpkin pie

When I was young I thought pies were made with fruit - usually apple but sometimes rhubarb. My mother didn't make cream or custard pies - probably because my dad didn't like them. When pumpkin pies were brought to the table at our extended family gatherings for Thanksgiving or Christmas  I was unimpressed; I thought they looked awful and couldn't imagine what would entice anyone to eat pumpkin pie. Then I married into a family that rarely ate fruit pies and always, always had pumpkin pie to cap Thanksgiving dinner. Horrifyingly I was asked to make and bring a pumpkin pie to that significant family gathering the first year we were married. I had never tasted a pumpkin pie, let alone made one but I wanted to please and impress so I pulled out my trusty Betty Crocker cookbook and got to work. I don't remember how successful the endeavour was in the end - I do remember a bit of an issue with a spill but I must have boxed up and shipped out the rest of the memory because there is nothing there. Also in the interest of pleasing and impressing I ate pumpkin pie with my new family and never let on that I had not always eaten pumpkin pie. What a revelation!!! and what a lot of wasted time. Except for the sad appearance there is just nothing to not love about a good pumpkin pie.

This pumpkin pie is a different pumpkin pie. At least as good but different. No baking and no gluten but lots of the delicious rich spiciness that dresses up pumpkin so very well. The recipe was shared with me by a good friend ages ago - I just made a few easy changes so that it is now free of gluten and refined sugars. It still doesn't look like much but it is so, so good.

Might just be a good addition to the menu for Thanksgiving - it is just around the corner here in Canada.

a different pumpkin pie
(adapted from Pam Sellar's recipe)

1 1/2 cups crushed gluten-free gingersnaps
3 Tbsp melted butter

Mix the butter and crushed gingersnaps. Press into a 9" pie plate. Set aside.

1/4 cup honey
1 envelope gelatin
1 1/4 cup canned pumpkin puree
1/2 tsp each - allspice, ginger, nutmeg, cinnamon, and sea salt
3 egg yolks
1/2 cup heavy cream

In a medium saucepan whisk the gelatin into pumpkin puree, then add the remaining filling ingredients and stir to mix. Cook over medium heat until it begins to bubble, reduce heat and cook for a further two minutes. Remove from heat and cool.

Cream topping:
3/4 cup heavy cream
2 Tbsp honey
1/2 tsp vanilla

Combine the cream, honey and vanilla. Whip until soft peaks form. Take out about half the whipped cream and set aside. To the remaining half add 1/2 tsp cinnamon and fold to combine.

To assemble to pie spread half of the pumpkin mixture into the gingersnap crust, cover that with the vanilla/honey whipped cream, spread the remaining pumpkin mixture carefully over the cream and finally top with the cinnamon whipped cream. Chill and enjoy.


october four

Today is Merin's birthday. It is not a sad day. Today I remember her birth and the overwhelming gratitude I felt for her life the night she was born, the gratitude that has grown since that night. I think of moments and days in her life and feel so much warmth and joy. I remember her beautiful smile, her sweet and generous nature, how she was sometimes too hard on herself but so forgiving toward others. I remember her  temper and passion, how she worked (consciously) to harness both and how she so sweetly apologized when temper slipped the reins and she "freaked out" about something. Her life was short but full - she could have done much more had she a longer time here but she did everything she wanted to do. Her passport was full of stamps from countries around the globe. She earned a BA Honours degree, she danced, she taught, she loved, she married, she was a mother. She was not perfect - no one is and I don't want to make her into what she was not - but she was wonderfully sweet and perfectly Merin. She was a ray of sunshine from top to bottom, inside and out. 

Happy birthday sweet Mer! Today I celebrate your life :)